SPRINGFIELD — The 183rd Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard could start flying F-16s again after spending years repairing them if the state's two U.S. senators have their way.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Sen. Dick Durbin have proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow U.S. Air Force officials to transfer A-10, F-16, F-15E/X or F-35 aircraft to the Guard unit in Springfield, the State Journal-Register reported.
The 183rd Wing, located at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, flew F-16s until the mid-2000s when the unit became an Air Operations Group.
"Springfield's 183rd Wing has a long history of flying missions to protect our nation dating back to 1948," said Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs while piloting a Blackhawk helicopter during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. "I'm proud to file this important amendment with Senator Durbin that would make sure the 183rd Wing flies once again, and I'll keep working alongside the Illinois National Guard on this issue."
Durbin, of Springfield, said he wants to ensure the wing remains a priority for the Department of Defense.
"We must continue to support the future of the 183rd Wing by finding ways for the Air National Guard to benefit both from the installation's potential and its proven record of success," he said.
Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, an Illinois National Guard spokesman, said the Wing could resume its flying missions since the unit still has the infrastructure from when F-16s used to be flown there.
But Leighton noted that the doors of the hangars, where the aircrafts are stored, would need to be fixed.
"There would have to be some work done," he said, though that work would be less than creating a wholly new infrastructure.
Leighton added that having a flying mission could "put Springfield on the map" and help bring money into the local economy.
"It brings additional capabilities," Leighton said. "It would bring more resources to Springfield that could be used in either the (Illinois National Guard's) state mission or the federal mission."